HomeSchool

#6 School’s (not) out for summer and Performance Related Pay

It was with a certain sense of trepidation that I started to think about the summer holidays. Our 3 youngest kids are all back in school in some form and have been enjoying it. Their moods have improved, they are sleeping better and not having to play at being teacher anymore is a joy!

The summer holidays are bringing me two problems.

Firstly, the kids don’t need 7 weeks off! What are they going to do with all that time? I don’t think it will take long to return to the lockdown blues they were experiencing before they went back. Netflix, Disney+ and Prime video have all been rinsed of the good stuff and even the games consoles are starting to gather dust!

We have decided to take some staggered time off. We will have one week all together and then stagger the next two weeks so that for three weeks at least one grownup (only by age at least when it comes to me) is around and not sitting at a desk or in a conference call. The week we are all together a staycation is being planned with a few days trips sprinkled in. I want these kids to be tired!

Our local zoo (Twycross) has put the call out that it is struggling so we may go there, perhaps even a venture to the nearest seaside – although the pictures on the news of rammed beaches are putting me off.

And another thing

Secondly, a school report for stepdaughter the younger has come through. She did great, but the teacher is suggesting that she needs to work on her times-tables over the summer.

I can’t tell if she is joking or not.

Times tables on stairs

Homeschooling has not really happened for us, and when it has it didn’t go well. With both of us working full time its been hard enough just keeping screen time to less than 10 hours a day let alone trying to teach in the evenings. The pressure to home school was very real and we were looking forward to a free pass. Our summer is now going to be filled with quickly trying to remember what 6 8’s are.

I’m really good at finding annoying ways of embedding this kind of info though.

“Lee can you cast (insert random show about mermaids here) to my TV?”

“Only if you can tell me 8 times 5?”

“Hey Lee, whats for dinner tonight?”

“Nothing until you tell me what 7 times 4 is”.

I bet you can tell that the kids love it when I have these bright ideas.

If anyone has any other tips or tricks for really embedding times tables then please (please!) let me know in the comments below.

Third times the charm. Or not.

All this homeschooling has shone an uncomfortable light on my own education. I’ll be upfront – I didn’t do well at school, it was not the place for me. I flunked my GCSE’s and then proceeded to flunk out after year 1 of college, join a different college only to drop out again. My parents were so proud.

I grew up very quickly (still some way to go) when at 22 I became a father. After that, I buckled down, started to work hard and began to enjoy learning. I now, rather ironically, work in education (not teaching) and have worked hard and learnt many things along the way. It’s doubly ironic that I now have a hand in writing the admissions policies for a college, that based on my own GCSE grades, I couldn’t study at.

I would be an ideal candidate for a marketing campaign that shows having few qualifications and no degree isn’t necessarily a barrier to having a successful career.

My appetite for teaching my kids is already low. I’m firmly in the “learn by doing, they will learn when they want to learn and about something they are passionate about”, camp. That’s a real thing, I go every summer. As I mentioned previously, I’m probably not the best role model for “doing well in school”. I do however want to inspire a love of learning.

The merits of teaching something to my kids, that I am told is important, that I don’t remember or feel I use much in my day to day life (and I do a fair amount of math, statistics, programming and the like), is a tough sell.

Question everything

I do like to question everything (did you notice?). Why do we need to know times tables? What for? It feels that sometimes some knowledge is required solely for the next stage of school. Knowledge that is only needed in adult life if your career needs it. I guess that’s the problem, we have to teach everything we can now so that our kids can be anything they want to be when they reach adulthood. A scattershot approach. Now isn’t the time to dissect that particular topic!

Of course I will help my stepdaughter over the summer, even if its only to help her for her next few school years.

Financial gain as a motivator

We have had 3 school reports in now, I don’t think my eldest will get one as he is due to finish school this year. Our kids have a wide range in abilities, 2 who can do well without much effort and yet still put in plenty of effort, 1 who really struggles and yet still puts in the effort and 1 who barely puts in any effort at all.

We are really pleased with the reports that we have had. Lots of effort, lots of joy to teach, lots of really helpful. That’s what we want, we want to shout about and praise the effort being put in. We want our kids to try their best.

I don’t believe, from what I know, that money or material reward is a good, long term motivational reward. Harvard Business Review has a really good article on the subject. In short, your engagement and satisfaction levels with work is three times more strongly linked with intrinsic than extrinsic motives. Not only that they cancel each other out. If you are intrinsically motivated you care little for external motives and vice versa. Therefore it’s far better to be internally motivated as the motivation is 3 times stronger.

Dangling a carrot is not a good way to motivate people

I wrote about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation recently when I caught myself seeking the praise of my kids. I found the motivation to do the job but it didn’t make for a happy ending.

So what to do with 3 really great reports? The kids haven’t expected anything and we didn’t motivate them with the promise of gifts at the end of the year. They have, however, worked hard through encouragement from us and from the school, from a desire to do well. Intrinsic motivation. And they have all done extremely well, we are very proud of them all.

There was no dangling of orange pointy vegetables, but you can have one for a job well done

So I have no issues with treating them all to a Mcdonalds and a gift of their choosing (within reason) to say well done. I do wonder if this is setting a precedence for future years, an expectation of a reward but I am comfortable that it isn’t. The gift isn’t big enough to warrant a year-long slog. I like to look at things from every conceivable angle. It’s not overthinking – its thorough. Question everything.

What do you do with a good school report? Gift or no? Is this promised at the start of a school year? Has it now become an expectation?

Also, please help me with any suggestions for times tables!

L

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